The great contemporary Islamic scholar Martyr Ayatullah Morteza Motahari
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
Martyr Morteza Motahhari was a great intellectual who through his works, speeches and books, played a pivotal role in spreading the Islamic teachings and awakening the political and social conscience of the Iranian people during those repressive days of the foreign-installed Pahlavi regime. He wrote at least 60 books and treatises before his life was cut short by an assassin’s bullet at the age of 60 years. He indeed possessed a dynamic mind and instilled in the youth, women, and all sections of the society a profound awareness of Islam and their duties in life. Born in Khorasan, after completing his religious studies in the holy cities of Mashhad and Qom, he pursued academic activities at universities. He acquired knowledge from such great scholars as Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Hussain Borujerdi, Allamah Seyyed Mohammad Hussain Tabatabie, and the Father of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini (RA). In the field of ethics he always felt indebted to the 12 years he had spent studying this vital branch of practical knowledge under Imam Khomeini. His other teachers include, Mirza Ali-Aqa Shirazi, Ayatollah Mohaqeeq Damaad and Ayatollah Hojjat Tabrizi.
Ayatollah Motahari played a very effective role in confronting and exposing distorted ideas. Although a master of philosophy, rhetoric, and historiography, he believed in practical efforts, and took due steps to enlighten the public regarding social and political issues, so that the cultural assault of the West could be foiled, especially at universities, where because of the anti-Islamic policies of the ruling regime, Western influence had negatively affected the youths. He held debates with the advocates of the various schools of thoughts including liberalists, secularists, communists, socialists, and other groups, and succeeded in exposing their fallacious ways of thoughts. Martyr Motahari considered freedom to be vital and necessary for all live creatures in order to facilitate proper growth and perfection. For instance, a sprout needs fertile soil to grow and turn into a tree, and similarly it is freedom that facilitates the progress towards perfection, since man has been endowed by God with intellect, willpower, and speech. He divided human freedom into two social freedom and spiritual freedom. Regarding social freedom, he has said: Social freedom means that human being should not be exploited by others. Others should not create obstacles in his path of growth or exploit his intellectual and physical capacities to their own benefit. One of the goals of the Prophets of God was to make people aware of social freedom, in order to rid minds of slavish attitudes.
In Surah Aal-e Imran, ayah 64, the holy Qur’an refers to two points; the first is the worship of the One and Only God, and the second is not to have slavish tendencies by accepting other humans as overlords: "Say, ‘O People of the Book! Come to a word common between us and you: that we will worship no one but Allah, and that we will not ascribe any partner to Him, and that we will not take each other as lords besides Allah"
In view of the concept of this ayah, regarding the goal of Prophets, Martyr Motahhari wrote: One of the goals of Prophets is to secure social freedom and campaign against social slavery. The present world too considers social freedom as one of its sanctities and the reason behind all wars and bloodshed and miseries which exist in the world is because human beings do not respect the freedom of others. In view of the fact that human being enjoys various instincts, Martyr Motahari, beside social freedom, refers to another type of freedom which plays an important role in ensuring social freedom, and this spiritual freedom. The human being has ethical conscience that helps him distinguish between good and evil, which is so vital for reaching spiritual perfection. In other words, spiritual freedom means overcoming of such negative tendencies as greed and anger. Thus without achieving spiritual freedom one cannot achieve social freedom, and this is what the Prophets of God taught humanity by showing how to observe social rights and refrain from oppressing others.
According to Martyr Motahhari, Prophets were sent by God to teach man to achieve spiritual freedom by preserving human dignity, intellect and conscience, through abstention from carnal desires and selfish attitudes. And to achieve this, a person should control his/her anger and strengthen the willpower to reject the temptations of unlawful earnings. Then only a person could be considered free in the real sense of this word. Ayatollah Motahhari made it clear that for achieving spiritual freedom, self-purification is necessary, as taught by all Prophets, especially the Last and Greatest of God’s Messengers, Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). He wrote: The main program of Prophets is spiritual freedom, while the main loss of our era is that we always speak of social freedom but we do not speak of spiritual freedom of human being. In our era, the manmade schools of thought speak no word regarding spiritual honesty, whereas social freedom is impossible to achieve without spiritual freedom. This is the present pain and affliction of the human society, which wants to achieve social freedom but does not first seek spiritual freedom. Thus in order to materialize this important goal it is necessary to follow the path of the Prophets and adhere to their teachings.